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3 keys that took me from a 14-handicap to a pro

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Back in January 2003, I was a 27-year old 14-handicapper who had only broken 80 once on a normal length golf course, a 78 at the Walker Course at Clemson University. At the time, breaking 90 was sort of my barometer for playing well.

As luck would have it, right after I moved out to California to embark on my golf journey I was taken under the wing of a local Pro named Dan Shauger. By the end of March, Dan helped me add 63 yards to my longest drive and shoot my first 18-hole round of golf under par.

Since then, I’ve posted multiple tournament rounds in the 60s and made numerous cuts in professional golf events. My lowest score in a casual 18-hole round of golf is now a 64 (8-under) at GolfPark Otelfingen in Switzerland, where I now reside.

Obviously, a lot of people were curious about what I did to make such a dramatic improvement. As I look back in hindsight, here are what I consider to be the three things that had the greatest influence on improving my game and lowering my scores.

1.  Less Clubface Rotation

As I talked about in my article, “The 6 Actions of the Wrists & Forearms”, it’s very commonly taught to pronate and supinate your wrists and forearms in the swing.

In the beginning of my golf journey I was self-coaching and was doing exactly that — rolling my wrists and forearms open in the back swing and then rolling them back to square and then over to closed as I swung through the ball. I remember thinking one day on the range at Lost Canyons in California that it would probably be easier to hit straighter if I didn’t roll like what I was seeing in photos of the golf books I was reading, but I figured if some of the best players in the world were doing it, then maybe I should try it too.

Interestingly, once I met Dan, he took a lot of that clubface rotation out of my swing and, wouldn’t you know it, I started hitting much straighter.  All those disastrous doubles and triples that I used to have that ruined my scores started turning in to pars and bogeys and my handicap started to really drop.

If you are struggling with hitting the ball with any kind of predictable shot shape and don’t want as high maintenance of a swing, I would definitely look in to minimizing the amount of wrist rolling you are doing through the hitting zone.

It was by far the biggest thing that helped improve my precision and accuracy.

2.  A More Steady Head

Back when I was a player who shot in the 80s and 90s, I had quite a bit of lateral head movement during my swing. I suppose that was born out of some tip I had heard about getting my front shoulder turned back over my rear foot in the back swing. My head drifted away from the target and then laterally back towards it.

Although there is the added benefit of the club path deviating less from the target line as you are coming through the ball with this top-half type of lateral move through the ball, it does create a complication in that the bottom of your swing arc is constantly changing.

This isn’t so bad if you’re sweeping the ball, but it can be more of a problem if you take a divot — in particular for me on uphill shots when I didn’t get my body weight back up the hill. Invariably, I would have a number of score-killing fat shots during my rounds.

Once Dan had me minimize the amount of head movement I was making during my swing, my ball striking consistency really improved because the low point in my swing wasn’t moving around so much.

I should clarify that I’m not advocating for your head to be perfectly still or saying that you still can’t hit good shots with some head movement, however, I would consider looking in to minimizing dramatic vertical and horizontal head movement until after the ball is struck if you are struggling with your ball striking.

For me, it helped cut down on my fat shots and translated into hitting closer to the center of the club face much more often, which of course had numerous subsequent benefits like more average distance, better distance control, etc.

3.  Less Tension

Aside from minimizing my club face rotation and cutting down on my head movement, the thing that really rounded out my improvements was getting rid of excessive tension.

The difference between a well-struck shot on target and one that gives up distance and goes off line isn’t much. Introducing tension in to your swing can really complicate getting the club consistently and solidly back on the ball.

You might also equate tension to a rusty door hinge. It takes a lot more energy to close a door with rusty hinges than it does one that’s well lubricated. Plus, the one that’s oily will move faster and with less effort.

I think this is a little easier said than done, especially for us guys, because it requires a bit of ego management to not want to be manly and hit every club as far as humanly possible.  However, the self control was an important discipline for me to get better at managing.

The great Canadian player George Knudson was a strong advocate of never swinging beyond a point of sacrificing balance. Harry Hilary Von Frankenberg, who has shot in the 50s three times in competition, stressed that a golfer should be relaxed and graceful and cannot ever be too boneless or too loose nor too muscleless. Mike Austin, the man that hit the 515-yard drive in the U.S. National Senior Open, spoke of supple quickness, which I think is a good way of describing it because swinging without tension doesn’t necessarily mean swinging slow. You can still swing fast…just be soft and supple.

One of my favorite tension-relieving drills is to hit a bucket of balls while blowing a subtle amount of air through my nose or mouth while hitting each ball. If there’s a big disruption to the flow of air during the swing, I’ll know I had some tension in my swing. Sometimes while I’m doing this I’ll also focus on keeping my face relaxed and not gritting my teeth while I swing…or I’ll imagine myself swinging with the grace and balance of Ernie Els or Fred Couples. By the end of the bucket, my shots are usually much better.

Obviously, individual keys will differ from person to person. However, as a generalization, if you are looking to lower your handicap I would definitely tell you to consider rotating the club less through impact, keeping a relatively relaxed steadiness to your head until the ball is gone, and taking care not to clench up too tight during all of your shots from full swings, to pitches, and chips.

Those are the things that made the most difference to my scores and perhaps you’ll find that they can help you drop some shots from tee to green as well.

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the creator of Sterling Irons® single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Two of his articles for GolfWRX are the two most viewed of all time. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also shot the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has helped millions of golfers and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s amateur golfers and tour players pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons® here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – Millions of views!!!

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Kirk

    Jul 23, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Hey Jaacob. Really liked the breathing thing on your article. I find myself breathing like a sniper, and holding my breath for the swing. You’re saying to breath in on the take away, and out on the swinging through?

    Also, I started golf recently when I was just 21 years old, and am about a 15 handicapper. I too would like to make golf a lifestyle and be great at it like you. I have confidence that I can do it, but I’m worried about how I can afford that lifestyle. Do you have to work a side job to pay for all the tournaments you enter? And do you win any prize money that helps a little bit (or the whole way) to support your lifestyle? I really admire it and want to have that lifestyle, which is why I ask.

  2. Kevin

    Oct 15, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Jacob, took up golf this year and I’m down to a 12.9 handicap which in delighted with but I would like to get better. I have a mental block where I think of my score continuously throughout a round and it affects my game
    Especially at the end of a round, do you have any advice for me would be muchly appreciated.
    Thanks

  3. Kevin

    Oct 15, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Hi Jacob, took up golf this year and I’m down to a 12.9 handicap which in delighted with but I would like to get better. I have a mental block where I think of my score continuously throughout a round and it affects my game
    Especially at the end of a round

  4. 121w.at

    Jun 28, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Hey there. Today employing yahoo. That is an exceptionally well crafted post. I most certainly will ensure that you save them plus come back to discover more of one’s helpful tips. Basically posting. I’ll definitely recovery.

  5. Pingback: Will I ever get a lower golf score? | Hacker to Single Figures

  6. nik dallos

    Nov 6, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Jaacob, ive been very frustrated with trying to gain a couple extra yards. From short/long, heavy/light, stiff,x,xx,xxx shafts, different methods of swinging the club, hours of pouring over different swing speed tips etc. Im still stuck around 107-114 mph clubhead speed. I feel I have maxed out my given speed. I feel like tossing in the towel and ending my search for more speed. How much faster can a guy get? Sure 90 to 104 mph is a great improvement, but where can you go from there? Its especially frustrating being a former 5’9″ 230 lb (and no im not fat!) college runningback . You tall wirey guys are so flexible and lanky! Its not fair !

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jun 29, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Hi Nik,

      Average amateur swing speed is around 93 mph. Typical Tour player is about 113 mph (average range of about 104 to 124). Top long drive guys have averaged in the mid 140s in the final rounds of the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championships.

      So if you’re willing to work at it, the sky is the limit.

      Have a look at the swing speed training programs at http://www.swingmangolf.com.

      Typically, people pick up 12-16 mph in the first month of training. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be you too!

  7. Liam M

    Jun 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Congrats Jaacob! I’m in the exact same boat as you! I regular shoot 80’s and am off a 14 handicap, with these tips hopefully i’ll have the same success you did! Congratulations on your achievment!

  8. Scott G

    Apr 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Great article. I think I’ve gotten #1 and #2 nailed in the past year. To accomplish #1 I strengthened my grip and opened my stance a little bit. Misses are playable instead of being off the planet. #2 I focus on during my practice swings because I know I have a tendency to sway too much, leading to inconsistency.

    I don’t give much thought to #3. Hopefully it will be the final key that takes me from being a 14 handicap to something much better.

  9. Pluto66

    Mar 16, 2013 at 5:04 am

    Great advise. But I find tension to be the hardest. A another tip I’ve tried is to hold a piece of Pringles chips or similar between your teeth while hitting balls. Try not to crush it! Any tension and you will fail not to do so.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 17, 2013 at 8:25 am

      Thanks, Pluto66.

      You’ve also got a great suggestion for helping with tension…especially for those of us that like Pringles!

  10. Socorr4

    Mar 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

    My problem seems to be tension since I have a quiet head and resonably consistent hand position. I tried hitting balls yesterday while consciously expiring air through my mouth. It requires some discipline. We’re conditioned to hit between breaths after exhaling, and I’m not sure I did the exercise correctly.

    It did help my control by allowing me to hit the ball more consistently on the sweet spot. The range balls at my club have limited flight due to lack of space, which make it difficult to assess distance.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Glad to hear it helped you hit more consistently. You’re right, it can take a little bit of discipline.

      I find that sometimes when first trying it, my shots aren’t quite as good…but after a few shots (anywhere from 5-20 balls for me) my body adjusts and I start hitting better. Once I have the feeling of swinging with less tension, then I don’t worry about the breathing any more.

      • Dre

        Jul 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

        For this drill, are you exhaling through back swing and down swing? Or only on the down swing?

        Thanks,

  11. Jeff G

    Mar 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Jaacob, Great advice. I subscribed to your website and had some great success improving swing speed until back issues derailed my game. What would you consider to be the maximum allowable head movement for those of us battling flexibility issues? If I try and minimize head motion, I cannot achieve a full turn. If I allow a few inches lateral motion (driver) and a couple on full irons I seem to get normal distance, but there are consistency issues.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 12, 2013 at 5:48 am

      Hi Jeff, thanks.

      Hmmm, I think maximum allowable head movement will differ from person to person. There are a number of factors at play.

      As one example, some people rely quite a bit on their vision as well as their inner ear for balance. You can test this by timing how long you can balance on one foot with your eyes open versus eyes closed.

      If you’re someone like me who uses vision quite a bit for balance, having so much head movement that at the top of your back swing the ball goes out of site of one of your eyes, it can make it more difficult to swing back down in balance and strike the ball cleanly.

      Conversely, all else being equal, someone that doesn’t use their eyes as much to balance could get away with more head movement.

      Ideally it would be nice to work on your flexibility. But if you don’t plan on doing that, then I would just say to try to find the middle point between allowing enough head movement that lets you turn for more power but not so much that it has a major disruption on your ball striking consistency. There will likely be a tip-off point where you really start losing control, so it will just take a little bit of trial and error at the range to find your personal threshold.

  12. Rey Omar

    Mar 11, 2013 at 5:07 am

    Hey mate, how did you minimize the head movement in your swing? It’s something that I’m really struggling with at the moment.

    Great article.

    Cheers.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 11, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Hi Rey, there’s quite a few ways to do it. Here are a few.

      Originally, I would just use a video camera. I’d record a couple of swings and identify where in the swing I was moving it, take a few more swings without the camera to work on eliminating or mitigating it, and then check again on camera.

      I’ve also closed one eye and used the bridge of my nose as a reference point to something on the ground and made swings while paying attention to not letting my nose move from that reference point.

      If you’ve got a buddy around, you can have them stand in front of you and hold the butt end of a club up next to your ear. Then just try to swing without bumping your head on the grip.

      I’ve never used it and it would cost some money…but similarly I think the Benderstik training aid would accomplish the same thing as having someone hold a club up next to your head.

  13. John Boisvenue

    Mar 4, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Great advice. I tend to over swing with the driver, and the three keys should benefit my swing. Enjoyed your blog.

  14. Roch

    Mar 4, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Bonjour Jaacob,
    The first time I saw your swing was In Mike Austin DVD. Then I went to your web site and you refer to Count Yogi(Harry Frankenberg) about the width of the stance. Then I bought the simple set system from Count Yogi.
    I’m still impress from that man and wonder why is not know better. However I think most teacher are to complicate and Count Yogi a little to simple. This is one reason why I love you post and web site.
    Also I like the fact that you have an open mind and generous to gave credit to others. For years I wonder about club rotation. Count Yogi and you are on the same page with this and my game is better since I use this method. If you have study Harry Frankenberg method can you tell us the simmilarity between you and him.
    Thank you for you excelent work.
    Merci
    Roch

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 5, 2013 at 8:29 am

      Bonjour Roch, merci pour le commentaire.

      I’m glad my work has been helpful for you. Yes, I do try to keep an open mind…as well as to come from a place of integrity and humility. You can see a little bit of that reflected in my word choice. For example, I try to stay away from words like “correct” and “proper” in any of my teaching.

      I also agree with you that some teachers unnecessarily over complicate the game, although I do believe there is value and a place for analysis and in-depth study. It just depends on the situation and the person involved. Good teachers can do both when needed.

      As I understand, Count Yogi was banned by the US PGA from tournaments for racial reasons…and because his teachings went against what the US PGA was teaching at the time. Were he allowed to compete, I think it’s feasible he could have won many US PGA sanctioned tournaments and been much more mainstream.

      Similarly I think Moe Norman would have won many US PGA tournaments as well had he not been ostracized for being so eccentric.

      And although I don’t think he would’ve won lots of tournaments due to his poor putting, it’s also feasible that Mike Austin would be more popular too. His swing method is a bit difficult to learn, but it is also the most powerful one I’ve ever experimented with.

      Yes, the Yogi system is simple. But similar to how a great zen master would teach in short phrases, parables, etc…I find there’s also a wonderful underlying wisdom to it. For example, a phrase that you might not give much thought to like “easy game, nothing to it” could indicate his mind set and the law of attraction at work in his game.

      Sometimes when I listen to him or read his material I’ll pause for a moment on seemingly trivial things to ponder deeper meaning (same with Moe Norman, Mike Austin, and others).

      Personally, I’m sure there’s a lot more I can and will learn about the Yogi system, but I do have some experience. I’ve read George Peper’s chapter about him in “The Secret of Golf” many times, I have his 3 books, I’ve watched numerous videos of him, found things around the internet, and I’ve met with Timothy Nicholls (whose chipping was excellent…I’ve only seen one other pro or amateur chip that well, a Paul Runyan advocate) at the range once.

      With Yogi, there’s no focus on manipulating the club face, shifting your weight, or technical stuff like that. You just follow the same routine every time with all shots…and focus on nothing more than being smooth and graceful.

      Over time you can become super consistent because you aren’t making changes to your swing, thought process, routine, etc. The swing can be handled more by the subconscious and thus make it easier to put your mind’s eye on the target. Your myelin can become more insulated from the repeated use of the same neuromuscular pathways and signal transmissions get faster. You can be more in balance and not over swing from the focus on being boneless.

      I could go on…but the short of it is that I think overall it’s a good system for playing golf and Count Yogi is one of numerous people (Dan Shauger – my first teacher and who introduced me to Mike Austin, Geoff Mangum – most knowledgeable putting person I’ve ever come across, Moe Norman – overall game, Dave Pelz – overall research and short game, George Knudson – overall game, Paul Runyan – short game, Tom Wishon – equipment, Cynthia Shapiro – mental coach, Roberto Moretti – practice and skill acquisition, and Fredrik Tuxen – Trackman, to name a few) who have very significantly and positively influenced my game.

      In fact the 3 keys that I mentioned above in the article would fit right in with the Yogi method (as well as the Austin swing).

      Anyway, hope that helps a bit…

      • Roch

        Mar 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

        Thanks Jaacob,
        It is clear for me now that not turning the clubface will work better for me.
        I’d like to ask you a question about motion. In the mid 80’s I bought the book swing the club head from Ernest Jones. The day that I finished read that book I shoot 77. I often pratice swinging a weight attach to a rope.
        Bobby Jones,Jim flick and some others refer to him. Mike Austin said swing the clubhead but showed us how to throught the clubhead from the top. Count Yogi in his book said don’t through the clubhead and tell us how to control the clubhead mentaly at 100%.
        Can you tell us what’s your thought on clubhead motion.
        Thanks again.
        Roch

        • Roch

          Mar 6, 2013 at 7:09 am

          Count Yogi wrote don’t swing the clubhead not throw the clubhead.
          My mistake.
          Roch

          • Jaacob Bowden

            Mar 7, 2013 at 7:38 am

            Hmmm, that could be a long answer to go in to all the possibilities! :-p

            But briefly with Austin and Yogi in particular, I find the Austin motion more powerful but more difficult to learn and control. To me it’s a bit tricky to throw from the top and then allow the club to release freely through the hitting area in a tension-free manner. “Throw and let it go” as one could say.

            For regular golf I also find it hard to keep my concentration on my target while also focusing on the throw from the top…plus, my club face awareness isn’t as good.

            However, for long drive I think it’s a great option because it’s more powerful and you have 6 penalty-free chances to get a ball in play versus only 1 in normal golf. That being said, I have still played great golf with the pure Austin motion.

            With Yogi there’s not as much power since you aren’t leveraging your hands as much, but I think it’s easier to learn, to repeat, to be consistent, and to use for regular golf. The simplicity of it can allow one to more easily control the club mentally and remain target-oriented.

            Personally, I use a bit of a hybrid. I wanted to be have the ease, club awareness, and mental control of the Yogi swing but also have the option to throw with my hands and leverage them more when necessary like in the Austin swing. Since I compete in speed golf as well (finished 5th in 2012 World Championships…gonna be aired on CBS next month on the Saturday of the Masters!), I also needed something that I could just step up and hit the ball roughly where I wanted without practice swings.

            It took awhile to get that sorted out but I think I have it now.

            So at setup I turn my lead shoulder clockwise. The shoulder rotation gives me a bit of a strong looking grip from a face-on viewpoint, despite it actually being more neutral. But this allows me to just turn in the back swing, keep soft wrists, and have the club cock naturally (further than it would in the Yogi swing) through inertia without rotating the club face open. I’m also conceptually very aware of where the club is the entire time.

            On the down swing, when I pivot my lower spine towards the target similar to Austin it brings the club back through the ball with very little club face rotation…but with more natural lag than Yogi.

            With the lack of club face rotation in the back swing and down swing, I can also throw from the top like Austin in a case where I need extra power.

            My swing ends up being a bit low and laid-off in the back swing…and more homegrown and less pretty looking in general, but the effectiveness is much better for me.

            Hopefully that makes a bit of sense. It’s a bit tough to explain without pictures and video…or being in person to demonstrate.

  15. Anthony

    Mar 3, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Nice post Jaccob and congratulations on your progression as a golfer, very good.
    Excellent points, not only does keeping the clubface more square in the takeaway reduce the clubface opening and closing so much, combined with a left arm close to the body (not outside the line) you get the shaft going back on or just above the plane (wrists can hingle vertically when left arm is in the correct position) makes golf so much easier. Points 2 & 3 are important aswell.
    I never really got this stuff right, but I’m getting there now.
    I Had the correct backswinig going for a round backin December and the result was a -7 65… & like you said, you have to hit the irons close to do this.
    With an average swing you can shoot a few under par – with good putting, but to shoot in the mid 60’s you need good putting and a good swing to hit those irons close.
    Cheers,
    Anthony

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 4, 2013 at 6:16 am

      Thanks Anthony…and congratulations on your remarkable 65 (-7).

      Indeed shooting mid-60s and even lower is a whole new level than just a couple under par. Rich Hunt has some interesting observations that I would agree with as a player about what needs to happen to do this -> http://www.golfwrx.com/63409/what-does-it-take-for-the-best-to-go-low/.

      Basically, you have to drive it well enough to give yourself chances to get at the flag as often as possible. Ideally it’s best to be in the fairway but you’ve got to avoid getting behind trees, going in to hazards or OB, etc. You need a lot of birdies so you need a lot of chances. First priority is just getting the ball in play.

      Then once you’re in position off the tee you need to be striking it well enough to get close enough to the hole to have a putt that you can reasonably make. It’s nice when a long putt goes in but it’s not realistic to rely on making a lot of long ones.

      My 64 was from 8 birdies and 0 bogeys. I drove it as well as I ever have that day. My tee shots were long and I got in to no trouble at all. I was at least green high in two shots on all four par-5s and basically had tap-ins or easy putts for those 4 birdies. The other 4 birdies I manages to pick up from hitting those iron shots pretty close as well. The rest of the round wasn’t perfect but basically I didn’t do anything dumb enough to give away any shots on the other holes. I forget exactly but I don’t recall missing any putts inside 10 feet.

      It was a great day!

      • Rex Dietrick

        Jul 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

        You said “With Yogi there’s not as much power since you aren’t leveraging your hands as much”

        If that’s true, how do you explain Count Yogi’s records:
        Fifty-five holes-in-one; nine of them on par-4 holes, two in succession (187 and 347 yards); one 416-yard hole-in-one

        Played a 550-yard hole in two strokes in Corpus Christi, Texas, driving 453 yards and sinking the next shot with a wedge.

        Great site!

        Thanks!

  16. Dave Pierce

    Mar 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Jaacob I have played with you before in our days at Crystal Highlands in Missouri and at Lost Cayons in California, believe me you are 100% improved and if people that want to learn or are already pretty good golfers should come to you for lessons!

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 4, 2013 at 5:13 am

      Hey Dave, thanks for the kind words. We should play together with my Dad again the next time I’m back in St. Louis. I had already improved a ton by the time you and I played Lost Canyons…but I’ve come even further since then!

      I haven’t gotten to play Crystal Highlands since the railroad bought it all those years ago. That course brings back nice memories from high school. I’m not sure if I ever shot lower than 87 or 88 there. I’d be curious to have a go at it again now that I became a good player and turned pro.

  17. Thomy

    Mar 3, 2013 at 9:43 am

    @ Chris… We are speaking about 18 Holes!
    Send me a text once u r back at Otelfingen, would be glad to see that.

  18. Jaacob Bowden

    Mar 3, 2013 at 8:16 am

    G & Todd, thank you.

  19. Chris

    Feb 27, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I shot 64 at Otelfingen with a set of rentals. Your swing is piss poor in the take away but not too bad at impact. Good luck to you but play some decent courses…Otelfingen is a joke.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 3, 2013 at 8:51 am

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment.

      Why in your opinion is the take-a-way piss poor? And are you referring to a particular swing? I’m always open to updating my view point, but I need a solid argument to do it. 😉

      Also, for your information, I’ve played some very good courses…Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Bayonet, Bandon Dunes, Emirates Golf Club, Jumeirah Golf Estates, and St. Andrews to name a few.

      If you shot 64 with a set of rentals at the same Otelfingen that I played, then I take my hat off to you.

      First of all, shooting under par with clubs that you aren’t used to would be extremely difficult for anyone. Most birdies come from hitting the ball close to the flag, so it would be very hard to do until you know how far the clubs go and have some experience with them.

      Secondly, Otelfingen isn’t that long at 6865 yards (6277 meters) from the back tees. But the course rating is 73.3 and slope is 133…with fairways as narrow as a US Open setup. When the rough is up and the wind blows, it is more challenging than numerous Tour level courses that I’ve played. I don’t like the crowds, but facility-wise I find it a nice place to practice.

      • Rufiolegacy

        Mar 16, 2013 at 10:22 pm

        This, is the response of a gentleman. Good on you Jaacob, fantastic read. Thanks for the tips!

  20. Todd

    Feb 27, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Solid stuff! Nice work.

  21. G

    Feb 27, 2013 at 2:38 am

    Those are all amazing advices. And well done to you!

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo

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One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.

Why?

If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots

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You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Instruction

Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?

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As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.

  

  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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